Following their showing in New York last month, it’s time for Australia to see the Samsung 2018 TV lineup. It’s an impressive offering. Overall, the TVs are bigger, blacker, and smarter. And for gamers, several are a lot faster.
A deep, black image
Let’s start at the top. The new Samsung Q9F range is the one at the top and the models in that range are big. The smaller one is 65 inches ($6,999). For those who find even 65 inches too small, there’s a 75 inch model ($10,999). Also at the premium end is the Q8F series in 55 inches ($4,099) and 65 inches ($5,899). I group these four because these are the ones in which ultimate picture quality is a priority. That’s because their screens use what Samsung is calling a “Direct Full Array”.
Samsung’s premium TV technology, QLED, uses precisely engineered Quantum Dots to create backlights producing specific wavelengths of light. This increases colour accuracy and brightness. The “Direct Full Array” models don’t use edge lighting, but a grid of LED backlights which are controlled individually by the TV electronics.
Yes, this is a bit of a back to the future arrangement. We’ve been here before, but I don’t think we have seen this with QLED technology. Anyway, it largely addresses one weakness of QLED compared to OLED: the production of deep, dark, blacks. In the parts of the screen where the image is supposed to be dark, the backlight can be turned down or off. That can make it almost as inky black as OLED.
Of course, OLED can go full black at the pixel level … and there are eight million pixels. These TVs’ grids feature up to 480 individual back lights, depending on the model. In my experience, the subjective results are much the same. Slightly weaker blacks aren’t really noticeable as such when they’re right next to bright areas.
And while these aren’t as thin as OLED TVs, they are still remarkably thin for an LCD TV with proper backlighting rather than edge lighting.
Ambient mode in Samsung 2018 TV
Samsung says that TVs spend eighty percent of their time switched off. Which makes for an unpleasant element in your room’s décor for eighty percent of the time. So it has introduced an “Ambient mode” across the ranges. This shows pleasing things on the screen – in a low power mode – instead of an ugly black rectangle.
Those things can include patterns and images that you’ve loaded into the TV, with overlays of clocks or weather details or other information. One of the cool features is that you can use your phone (Samsung only, it seems) to take a photo of the TV with its surroundings. The TV will create a matching pattern on its screen.
One Clear Connection
Also making things a lot prettier on some models is “One Clear Connection”. Rather than having the electronics and TV tuner and connections built into the panel, these come in a separate box. Then a single cable connects this to the panel. A single slim plastic cable.
This was kind of available in some models last year, but the panel still had to be plugged into a power point. This year the cable carries both the signal and the power. Again, in a slim cable. I measured it at 3.5mm thick. It’s largely transparent and quite flexible. If you’re wall mounting the panel you could score a thin channel into the gyprock, put the cable in that and plaster and paint over it.
I quizzed the Samsung people. It turns out that fibre optics carry the signal and four wire conductors carry power. Two are for a 13 volts circuit, and two are for a 350 volt circuit. There are of course suitable protections for a cut or other short circuit. Five metres of cable comes in the box, and fifteen metre lengths are available as options.
Why the high voltage? Remember, the higher the voltage for a given power, the lower the current. It’s the current that determines the thickness of the conductor.